We need to admit that we’ve smoked entitlements

Rick Robinson Author, Writ of Mandamus
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The landscape of American political thought often leaves elected officials with short time frames for taking the “mea culpa” route and expecting to be forgiven by the electorate.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg for the United States Supreme Court. A former law professor at Harvard and a member of the Reagan administration, Ginsburg seemed to be the perfect nominee.

Following Ginsburg’s nomination, Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio revealed that Ginsburg had smoked marijuana during his college days. A student then came forward and alleged that Ginsburg smoked pot while he was teaching at Harvard. The nomination was fried quicker than Charlie Sheen on a three-day bender.

When Ginsburg gave up his quest for the Supreme Court, something strange happened. Politicians who had also committed the previously unforgivable sin of smoking pot determined that they could also admit to usage and the world would not come crashing down around them.

The political confessional was suddenly open for business.

In the days following Ginsburg’s revelation, the wells of the House of Representatives and Senate resembled an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as members lined up to tell their stories of youthful indiscretions. People shamefully admitted that they had “experimented” with marijuana in their college days.

The voters made Al Gore and Newt Gingrich say ten Our Fathers — and promise to clean out their bongs after every use.

Current members of Congress should take note that the political confessional is back in business. This moment in history offers politicians a similarly short time frame to “mea culpa” their way out of their past indiscretions.

This is the moment for entitlement reform

Prior to this year, uttering anything about entitlement reform was a death knell for a politician. There was no quicker path to un-election than telling voters that the entitlement system is broke and in need of a serious structural overhaul.

A plethora of events have contributed to the change in the political environment and made this year very different on that score.

Watching the governments of the Arab world unravel in a swirl of camel-driven protests has made all Americans aware that people, not governments, are the key to self-determination. Governments are fragile and can fall.

The scenes on the nightly news seem to have been underscored by footage of union members storming the capitols in Wisconsin and Ohio, demanding that their respective legislatures vote everyone wealthy.

Every day the governors stand strong, more and more people seem to understand the simple fact that the government is broke. The budget battle has hit home with a bunch of folks who don’t have the income to pay $3.94 for a gallon of gasoline.

In the midst of all these stories, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke of entitlement reform and no one called for his head. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul went on the air repeatedly to speak about means-testing Social Security recipients. Instead of lying down in front of his car, people are (begrudgingly) nodding along with him in the affirmative.

Americans don’t like the thought, but they are coming to realize that we cannot get the budget under control until we tackle entitlements. And, if the lack of reaction to Christie and Paul are any indication, apparently now is the time for action.

Politicians beware — the time for action is short. Voters will not give you much time to act.

Every time a politician proposes to reform Social Security, they say, “No one over 55 will be affected.”

I turn 53 on Saturday — two years short of the magic number. But, if Congress fixes the budget for my kids at my expense, I’ll forgive them.

Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.